African American athletes and students in recent years have been expressing apprehension and feeling out of place at Predominantly White Schools (PWIs). Whether, it was the Student Body President at American University getting racist threats. Whether it was the students at the University of Missouri complaining about the lack of response when black students complained about racist behavior on campus which resulted in the football team stating they were willing to sit out unless action was taken.
In response to this discomfort, one place of solace many black students turned to were coming home to HBCU’s. Enrollment has shot up across the country as many of the historically black colleges and universities. With many black athletes starting to feel disenchanted with southern white male coaches at major universities, now they are exploring other options. That option is playing ball at an HBCU. Big name recruits that would have scoffed at going to an HBCU years ago, are now considering it.
One of those responsible for this rise interest in HBCU sports is Deion Sanders, Head Football Coach at Jackson State University, in Mississippi. Coach Sanders understands this job is not only about winning. Lots of HBCU football teams have had great seasons.
There’s been plenty of HBCU athletes that have played on the highest level at the NFL. But those were aberrations, and not the norm. Coach Prime’s job is to be the squeaky wheel. To bring attention to the University, to bring attention to these young men that are in his charge. Deion worked to bring sponsors, donors, and television coverage to this school’s football program.
He’s done just that, because Coach Sanders is box office every time he opens his mouth or posts something on Instagram. He’s not just talking trash as he did in his playing days at Florida State, Atlanta, San Francisco and Dallas. He’s giving inspirational speeches to his players on the gram. He’s constantly doing interviews with major outlets. Jackson State’s games have been getting televised of some form of ESPN every week.
In one of Coach Sanders’ early press conferences he got upset with a reporter that called him Deion and did not refer to him as coach. ‘Primetime’ Sanders is re-branding himself; where he was once the flashy player with loud suits, and the “Must be the money” music video. To now we are seeing him as mentor, hear his ability to be a motivational speaker, and respect him now as the Coach of the Jackson State Tigers, is an amazing transformation.
One of Coach Prime’s most moving halftime speeches was caught and posted on Instagram, where he tells his players “it’s time.” Time to go out and perform. Time to make mom and dad proud.
Time to go and earn their scholarship. Time to put all of the resources that Coach Sanders has brought in (uniforms, nameplates on the back of the jerseys, new cleats, gloves etc) into proper use to put forward winning efforts out on the field.
It’s also “time” that was recognize that Coach Prime is doing god’s work. That HBCU’s can again be the breeding ground for professional athletes the way it once way before PWI’s started recruiting black athletes. But it will take alumni to donate to their HBCU’s.
It will take more former NFL players showing up as Head Coaches. It will take top notch athletic facilities to compete with big Power 5 schools. But it’s time we started putting those amenities together. It’s also time to give Coach Deion Sanders his flowers while he’s still here. Kudos to you Coach.